I have been a bicycle advocate for the last 3 years because I feel that there are far too many cars on the road and bicycles can play an important role in reducing those numbers. I am also for public transport but feel that it will not work for my city due to urban sprawl with its maze of meandering streets and cul-de-sacs intended to offer more privacy for residents. Such streets were specifically designed for driving decades ago so this antiquated system of roads and streets remains. People wanting to take public transportation running along major roads is problematic because most residents will have to walk long distances to a transit stop. It is far easier to simply drive their cars.
Bicycles do not have this problem and neither do cars. The problem with cars is that they cause traffic which as our city rapidly grows is becoming a major problem. These same cars stuck in traffic are also major producers of greenhouse gas which causes Climate Change, especially with their engines running going nowhere on our congested roadways. They also use fossil fuels from fracking and offshore oil wells which are also bad for the environment. Cars are responsible for more than 30,000 deaths in the United States each year, far more than any war since WWII and the largest cause of childhood deaths. And the cost of maintaining roadway infrastructures is enormous. These are only the public costs of cars. The cost to car owners in purchasing, maintaining, fueling, insuring, parking, and other fees is a sizable portion of our incomes. So there are many reasons for reducing the number of cars on our roadways.
Yet I know people who claim to be environmentally conscious and very into the United Nations initiatives against greenhouse gases and Climate Change but are still car-eccentric and quite critical of bicycles. Bicycles have a legal right to our roads but that is not the way many drivers feel about them. They claim that when traffic is heavy bicycles pose a greater hazard. Yet they are the ones causing the heavy traffic.
My city is starting to implement safer bicycle lanes throughout the city. In some cases this means slightly narrowing car lanes to keep bicycles further from traffic with buffer zones. Resident drivers are complaining that this is slowing down traffic. In fact it is resulting in traffic calming by making drivers drive closer to the actual speed limit. So complaining people are actually saying that narrower roads inhibit them from breaking the speed limit. I simply do not buy their arguments. Bicycles should have equal rights to the road. As a matter of fact the first roads were intended for bicycles. So historically bicycles have more rights to the road.
Cars should share the roads with bicycles but because of their sheer size, mass, and horse power cars pose a serious threat to bicycles as they speed pass them just feet away. We must address that threat to encourage more people to bicycle. The State of California’s department of highways, Caltran, incorporated Class 4 protected bicycle lanes into law in late 2014 which provides specific guidelines on implementing protected bicycle lanes by placing physical barriers and space between cars and bicycles. This keeps cars out of bicycle lanes and bicycles out of car lanes. Safety is the first consideration to make people feel more secure bicycling the streets to draw more people of all ages to bicycle instead of driving or riding in cars that pose a danger to the public and produce large amounts of greenhouse gases. Bicycles produce zero emissions and need zero fossil fuels as well as posing little danger to the public. They causing little to no traffic congestion, a most sustainable form of transportation for our city which has among the best weather in the world. So there is no reason people cannot bicycle around our relatively small city. It is a sustainable and a very environmentally friendly form of transportation as opposed to driving everywhere which poses a real danger to other motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians sharing the road while being a major producer of greenhouse gases and reliance on fossil fuels from fracking and offshore oil wills.
We need far more sustainable bicycles on the road and far fewer unsustainable cars. Sure there are crazy speeding bicyclists on our roads because for them bicycles are a weekend sporting activity. But once there are hundreds of more bicyclist on the roads who use their bicycles to shop and do other tasks you will find that these fast sporting bicyclist also pose a hazard to them and will force them to do their fast sports riding elsewhere. I have a shopping cart capable of carrying 50 lb. loads that attaches to my bicycle in seconds so bicycles are useful for shopping. And when a task is too much for a bicycle then one can use their car. I am not advocating eliminating cars. I am advocating equal right for bicyclist to feel safe sharing our roads with cars thus reducing traffic as well as greenhouse gas emissions.
I am a bicycle advocate, not an avid cyclist. In fact I typically bicycle ones or twice a week for 30 min. around my neighborhood. But I would like to bicycle further out more often if it could be done safely with Class 4 bicycle lanes. This seems possible now since my city is more willing to spend money on bicycle safety since the fatal bicycle accident of a boy riding his bicycle to school a little over a year ago. Bicycles are now being taken far more seriously by our state and regional governments due to overwhelming car traffic and the need to reduce greenhouse gases from cars. Even electric cars typically get 80% of their electricity from fossil fuel power plants, the largest single contributor of greenhouse gases in the nation. Bicycles are the single most energy-efficient mode of transportation that is totally independent of fossil fuels that produces no greenhouse gases other than that exhausted by the cyclist. They also do not produce the traffic congestion that cars do making them very sustainable and environmentally friendly.
So if you are really interested in saving the world and your city from deadly traffic congestion and catastrophic Climate Change join me in advocating bicycles even if you are not an avid bicyclist because it is the right thing to do and a moral imperative to stem Climate Change.
Excellent post, thanks for sharing this. Interestingly, you could write almost the exact same thing about any capital city here in Australia. We are also plagued by a car-centric culture and a total lack of ability by town planners to design efficient transport options. It is ironic that car drivers will often bemoan the presence of cyclists, in the misunderstanding that bikes somehow cause traffic delays. If all the people who commute by bicycle were to stop riding and start driving their cars, the traffic situation would be (far) worse, not better. I have been bicycle commuting for almost three years now, and see gridlock almost every day. Never once has that been caused by cyclists. The cause has always, no exceptions, been too many private vehicles on the road.
Thank you Michael for your encouraging comment. I guess traffic is a universal problem. I feel cars will one day become obsolete because they take up so much space, consume soo many resources and energy, and are a major contributor to Global Warming. I got rid of my car 2 years ago. But I am retired and can do without a car most of the time. I hope more people will see the health, environmental, financial, and traffic reduction benefits of bicycling. Enjoy your bicycling in the land down under.